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History of Art

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University History of Art and Visual Studies


Amazon Cast Danielle Mericle


Detail: Aids for the Deaf

Indonesian Clay Dolls

Tapestry by Pieter van Aelst


Detail: Battle between the conquering Mongols and the Muslim population of Iran


Detail: Beyond the Taj


Detail: Eave hanging (ider-ider) with scenes from Butterfly L

japan detail

Detail: Three Laughers of the Tiger Glen


Detail: Le Ventre Legislatif


Detail: El Regreso del Canibal Macrobiotico


Forgotten Dream


Detail: Moche Panel Fragment with Four Figur

sea gods

Detail: Battle of the Sea Gods

The dream and lies of franco

Detail: The Dream and Lie of Franco


Fields in the Month of June

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Course Numbering System                                                                                            

1000-level courses except ARTH 1100 are first-year writing seminars.

2000-level courses are introductions to the major subdivisions of Western art and art outside the West.

3000-level courses are intermediary courses addressing more specialized topics or epochs.

4000-level courses are seminars primarily for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

6000-level courses are seminars primarily for graduate students.

About History of Art Courses

A listing of History of Art courses, past and present, can be found in the Courses of Study Catalog

Or view the Course and Time Roster for Spring 2017.

Undergraduate/Graduate Courses - Spring 2017

ARTH 2000 Introduction to Visual Studies
A. Moisey
T/R 2:55-4:10

This course will introduce you to the field of Visual Studies.  Visual Studies seeks to define and improve our visual relationship to nature and culture after the modern surge in technology and knowledge.  Our field contains objects, images, and problems that lie beyond the fine art boundaries of Art History and the methodological boundaries of experimental science, yet is grown using seeds from both academic cultures.  If you see yourself as a “visual person” and want to explore your interests within both science and art, then this is the course for you.  You will learn the physical and legal limits of human, animal, and machine vision, how knowledge and power gets into images, how spectacle drives the economy, and savvy techniques of analysis that will help you deliver fresh perspectives to whatever course of study you follow.

ARTH 2355 Introduction to Art History: Medieval Art and Culture
B. Anderson, C. Robinson
T/R 1:25-2:40
Sec 1: W 12:20-1:10Sec 2: F 12:20-1:10 

Survey lecture course covering the creation, encoding, and reception of Medieval (roughly AD 500-1500), European, Byzantine, and Islamic architecture, ornament, manuscripts, liturgical and luxury objects.  The approach is thematic but chronologically grounded; attention is also given to cultural interaction in the Mediterranean basin.

ARTH 2550 Introduction to Art History: Latin American Art
A. Cohen-Aponte
T/R 11:40-12:55

This course is designed to introduce students to Latin American art from the pre-Columbian period to the present. It will cover the arts of ancient civilizations including the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Moche, and Inca, as well as the colonial, modern, and contemporary arts of Latin America and the Latino/a diaspora. Major themes include the relationship between art and religion, innovations and transformations in Latin American art across time, art and identity, and indigenous contributions to the visual arts. This course examines the societal relevance of images across Latin American cultures by paying close attention to the historical and political contexts in which they were created. Course readings are drawn from the disciplines of art history, anthropology, and history, along with theoretical perspectives on colonialism, postcolonialism, identity, race, and ethnicity.

ARTH 2710 Roman Wall Painting
V. Platt
T/R 8:40-9:55

Some of our very best evidence for Roman art survives in the form of frescoes in Rome, Ostia and (especially) the area surrounding Pompeii. This course will take you through imperial palaces, rural villas, town houses, shops, baths, tombs, taverns and gardens, examining the visual dynamics and socio-cultural significance of wall-paintings within their original archaeological contexts. The study of frescoes offers an exciting means of tackling important questions relating to Roman social history (issues of class, gender, familial and political structures), while inviting us to explore visual themes such as the relationship between art and nature, the use of myth, the spatial dynamics of domestic decorative schemes and concepts of ornament.

ARTH 3230 Iconography of Greek Myth
A. Alexandridis
T/R 10:10-11:25

Myths are traditional tales. Their authority becomes apparent in that they were constantly adapted to changing social, political, cultural, etc. conditions. Although this seems to be a widely accepted definition so far, it is deeply influenced by Greek tradition. Not only is the term mythos (word, tale) Greek, but the ubiquity of Greek gods, heroes, and their deeds in ancient literature and material culture has given myths an importance they might not have had in other cultures. This class will give an overview of the most important Greek myths and mythological figures as depicted in Greek and Roman times. The chronological frame will range from the seventh century bc to the third century ad. We will discuss the iconography of the Olympian gods and their escorts; of myths such as the loves of the gods; the battles between the Olympian Gods and the Giants, between Greeks and Amazons as well as between Lapiths and Centaurs; the Trojan War; the adventures of Odysseus; the heroic deeds of Heracles, Theseus and Perseus among others. By analyzing where and when mythological images were on display it will become clear how myths were adapted to their specific context as well as why certain myths were more often depicted or more popular than others.

ARTH 3600 Contemporary Art: 1960s to Present
I. Dadi
T/R 11:40-12:55

This course discusses new art practices since the 1960s. Although numerous artistic experiments took place during the first half of the twentieth century, it was with the declining importance of modernist painting and sculpture by the late 1950s that newer modes of artistic practice became established. The course will explore the rise of Fluxus, Minimalism, Conceptualism, Land Art, Video and Performance, Postmodernism, and Postcolonialism. These practices are situated in relation to intellectual and social movements since the 1960s, including counterculture, feminism, race, ecology, institutional critique, and globalization. This course focuses primarily on Western European and North American art, but also incorporates selected global developments.

Prerequisite: ARTH 2600 or equivalent exposure to modern art.

ARTH 3650 History and Theory of Digital Art
M. Fernandez
M/W 2:55-4:10

In this course students will examine the role of mechanical, electronic and digital technologies in the arts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries with emphasis on Europe and North America. Beginning with kinetic art and the cybernetically inspired work of the late 1960s, we will explore early uses of computer technology, including early synthetic video in the 1970s. An overview of pre-internet telematic experiments will lead to an investigation of The ongoing development of behavioral art forms including interactive installations, robotics, generative art, artificial life art, responsive environments, bio art and video games will be a central theme. Students will be encouraged critically to evaluate a variety of theoretical discourses concerning modern technologies.

ARTH 3800 Introduction to the Arts of China
A. Pan
T/R 1:25-2:40

This course offers a survey of the art and culture of China, from the Neolithic period to the 20th century. We begin with an inquiry into the meaning of national boundaries and the controversy of the Han Chinese people, which helps us identify the scope of Chinese culture. Pre-dynastic (or prehistoric) Chinese culture is presented through both legends about the origins of the Chinese, and scientifically excavated artifacts. Art of the dynastic and modern periods is presented in light of contemporaneous social, political, geographical, philosophical and religious contexts. Students work directly with objects in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

ARTH 3900/6900 Bollywood and Beyond: South Asian Cinema
I. Dadi
T/R 1:25-2:40

This course provides an introduction to selected key themes in cinema and the moving image from South Asia. The course investigates documentary, artistic, and commercial cinemas, focusing on concepts and frameworks for understanding their development and their meaning. These include questions of form and narrative, the place of cinema during social and cultural transformation, and the relationship of the moving image in South Asia to developments in global cinema. Structured as a tutorial, this is a reading and discussion intensive course with limited enrollment.

ARTH 4155/6155 Topics in Latin American Art
Topic for spring 2017: Art and Politics in Latin America: From Revolution to Dissimulation
A. Cohen-Aponte, M. Fernandez
W 12:20-2:15

In this seminar students will explore the intersections between politics and artistic practice in Latin America in a selection of works ranging from the colonial period to the 21st century. How can we conceive of aesthetics as political praxis in Latin America under a variety of historical regimes, including Spanish colonial rule, revolutionary governments, military dictatorships, and the contemporary neo-liberal state? What methods might be appropriate to study these practices? How does regional visual culture intersect with international artistic and political discourses? This course also investigates the political valences of visual and performative works that traditionally are not classified as “political art,” including abstract art, performance, theater, installation, new media and site-specific work. In this way the seminar interrogates stereotypes of Latin American art, which prevail despite a long history of diverse artistic production in the region.

ARTH 4352/6352 Medieval Cosmologies: Text, Image, and Music
B. Anderson, A. Hicks
F 1:25-4:25

Cosmology can be understood as the search for order in the universe, for an underlying logic that structures and renders intelligible the raw chaos of sensory experience. In this sense, the production of cosmologies is not only a scientific or theoretical enterprise, but also has direct implications for religion, politics, and social ideology. We will adopt a broad approach to the study of the dominant cosmological models in the medieval Mediterranean (ca. 500-1500 C.E.), considering both their sources (Greco-Roman science, mythology, revealed religion, etc.) and their expressions in literature, art, and music.

ARTH 4451/6451The World on Paper: Early Modern Printmaking (1475-1798)
C. Lazzaro, A. Weislogel
R 2:30-4:25

Printmaking in early modern Europe ushered in a revolution in the production and perception of images, relatively cheap and available to a wide public. What kinds of images emerged, and what purposes did they serve? What did the buying public do with these images on paper? Taught in the Johnson Museum with its extensive collection of prints and co-led by curator of European art Andrew Weislogel and director Stephanie Wiles, the first aim of this seminar is to experience original masterworks by the most prominent printmakers of the period, including Mantegna, Dürer, Goltzius, Rembrandt, and Hogarth. We will consider the techniques and materiality of prints, look at fakes and forgeries, and discuss patterns of publishing and collecting. A second aim is to examine through analysis of weekly readings themes that concerned printmakers and their viewers. Among class topics are religion and allegory, witches and beggars, humor and satire, portraits of people, cities, and landscapes, issues of self-fashioning, invention, and replication, and prints as sites of knowledge about the expanding world.

ARTH 4517/6517 Saving Synagogues: Architecture, Historic Preservation and Communication
S. Gruber
T 10:10-12:05

For almost two thousand years the synagogue has been the focal point of Jewish life and identity. It has been the most prominent of Jewish buildings, for Jews and non-Jews. Thousands of synagogues have been built, but few synagogues are included in the traditional corpus of architectural history. Until recently, there was little systematic information on synagogue history, design and condition.  

ARTH 4601/6601 Space, Gender, Body in Early Modern Art
L. Pincus
T 2:30-4:25

The body is a universal. How we construct our understandings of it is not. In this class we will investigate conceptions and treatment of the early-modern body (1400-1700) mainly in Europe with excursions to China, Japan, Africa. Among our topics will be: classical understanding of the body and gender; cross-cultural practices of medicine and anatomy; aesthetics and the nude; definitions of beauty and the grotesque. Criminal, sinful and saintly bodies; death, the macabre, and  the mortal, divine body of Christ; the ambiguous gender of children; the formation of identity through portraiture; the science of sexuality and art of erotics as well as correspondences among bodies, domestic and public spaces, the macrocosm and microcosm will round out our study. We will work with historical materials with an eye for current practices in bodily identities.

ARTH 4771/6771 Indigenous Art, Film, and New Media: Anti-Colonial Strategies
J. Rickard
T 12:20-2:15

This course examines Indigenous art, new media and film from three distinct interrelated perspectives of aesthetics/theory, technology and history/culture. The relationship between technology and tradition reevaluates established assumptions between representation, power and the gaze. Decolonizing methodologies will establish the translatability of Indigenous oral tradition to visual expression as a form of cultural agency. The use of media as a cultural and political intervention will be discussed through the work of Hopi filmmaker, Victor Masayesva, Inuit filmmaker, Zacharias Kunuk, the Kayapo Media Collective, Aboriginal artist, Tracy Moffat, new media artist; Mohawk, Skawanati, Maori photographer, John Miller and more. The construction, circulation, and reception of Indigenous visual culture will be discussed within a transnational, diasporic and global frame.

ARTH 4818/6818 Exhibition Seminar
A. Pan
R 10:10-12:05

Public display of art objects and artifacts involves more than just artistic presentations. How is the title selected? What (whose) works are included? How are they displayed? How are they framed in the exhibition space as well as in an exhibition catalogue? These complex issues are integral to exhibition discourse. Students will review past exhibitions and design a new exhibition based on the collection at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. The final product will be on view to the public and will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue co-authored by all participants in the seminar. Students will learn how to engage in academic and scholarly inquiry of issues related to exhibition design, and will experience hands-on aspects of museum work related to organizing an exhibition.

ARTH 4857/6857 Biodiversity in Art: Unruly Passions in Collecting, Narrating and Creating
A. Alexandridis, K. McGowan
W 2:30-4:25

Consciousness of the world’s diversity has historically been rooted to artistic endeavors and scientific exploration. Collecting, describing, narrating and ultimately creating of human, plant, and animal species is as much at the heart of Biodiversity in Art as it is a method in Art History and Biology. Situated at the intersection of science and aesthetics, this course explores the creative and often symbiotic, shape-shifting encounters between humans, flora and fauna from early Greek and Roman accounts to Asian articulations through time. Students will be encouraged to apply various methodologies in the writing process as they engage these collecting impulses and unruly passions. Classes will be held at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum.

ARTH 6734 The Ancient Senses
V. Platt
M 1:25-4:25

This course will take advantage of new scholarship on the history of the senses to explore Greek and Roman culture through the perceptual capacities of the body. We will examine ancient theories of embodiment and sense-perception (with a special focus on Aristotle), as well as the ways in which cultural artefacts invited, modeled, examined, or problematized sensory relations between humans and their environments. From the hero's voice in Greek tragedy to the smells of urban Rome, and from visions of the gods to the textural qualities of language, we will take a multi-disciplinary approach. There will be a special focus on sound, in order to prepare students who may wish to take part in the 2017 CorHaLi conference at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio, Greece, but the course is open to anyone with an interest in historical approaches to the senses. Special guests will visit our seminars, including Shane Butler, Chair of Classics at Johns Hopkins University, author of The Ancient Phonograph and editor of the Routledge series, The Senses in Antiquity.

ARTH 6910 Vision in Theory
P. McBride
R 2:30-4:25

This course takes as its point of departure the foundational questions that have informed interdisciplinary inquiry into vision and visuality in recent decades: What is an image? How do images produce meaning? How has vision been defined historically and methodologically? How has visual culture been construed theoretically? Our goal will be to sketch the genealogical trajectories that comprise visual studies as a field of investigation by focusing on concerns that have shaped larger theoretical debates on the politics and ethics of representation, including mimesis, realism, perspective, the interplay of word and image, attention, spectacle, and surveillance. Readings will be drawn from influential works in visual theory, cultural semiotics and anthropology, media studies, and the science of vision. They may include texts by Alpers, Bal, Barthes, Crary, Elkins, Foucault, Haraway, Jay, Livingstone, Merleau-Ponty, Mitchell, Stafford, Panofski, Ranciere, and Virilio, among others.